We must urge Philadelphians and, by extension, Pennsylvanians, to support protecting LGBTQ+ students and our rights in the educational sphere. We have unique situations and experiences that our non-LGBTQ+ peers face, including excessive bullying and harassment based on sexual orientation and/or gender, known or perceived; this treatment prevents a significant sector of America’s youth from reaching our full potential and making the most out of the education available to us.
The maltreatment that many LGBTQ+ students face causes behavioral and emotional problems in later years, possibly rendering us less-productive members of our society. It is also worrying to see certain turns the federal government has taken with regards to the rights of LGBTQ+ youth. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will continue to allow for schools to receive federal funding even if they blatantly discriminate against their LGBTQ+ students, whether that be through suspension, expulsion or failure to address bullying and harassment concerns. Such rejection of a young person’s identity can increase suicide risk by 20 percent, according to the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. It is ironic to see this from self-professed “pro-lifers.”
We, as citizens of Pennsylvania, can do something about this, like lobby the state legislature. We need to tell them how we personally will be affected by anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. Even though I focus on students, it is still legal in Pennsylvania for employers to discriminate against employees by sexual orientation and/or gender. This nation may not provide adequate protections, but on a state level, we can make life more tolerable for LGBTQ+ Pennsylvanians. We have come so far already that progress must not stall now; progress cannot stop until all LGBTQ+ humans, from all walks of life, have equal rights and social acceptance.
— Anne Pugsley, Philadelphia